The Bucs will take on Samford in Birmingham on Thursday, January 31st. The Bulldogs took ETSU to overtime in Freedom Hall, and on Thursday the Bucs will be playing at their place. They are coming off a win at Furman and an OT game at Wofford that they should have won. They played UNCG down to the wire.
As with most teams, their rotation has tightened in conference with the top 5 increasing their minutes (Sharkey 36.7; Austin 35.1; Allen 32.1, Gordon 31.8 and Guerrero 28.7) and everybody else dropping down. Kevion Nolan (.529 from 3 with 1.5 makes) gets 16.7 minutes seeing action in 6 of 9 conference games and averaging 5.8 points. Deandre Thomas and Stefan Lakic get about 10 minutes and 2 points apiece. They live and die with the top 5.
Samford is a strong offensive team ranked 87th in offense in D1 by Kenpom compared to 106th for ETSU on the season as a whole. However, the Bucs do rank a notch higher than Samford in conference only offensive statistics. The Bulldogs can score inside with broad shouldered 7 foot 240 Guerrero, 6-8 200 Freshman Robert Allen and Sharkey penetrating. Or outside with the best 3 point shooting team in the SoCon at .417 with 8.9 makes, 9th in D1 on the season. Main shooters are 6-5 Alabama transfer Brandon Austin (.449 with 3.4 makes in conference), 6-8 freshman Robert Allen who has really upped his game in conference (.481 with 1.4 makes), and Myron Gordon (.370 with 1.1 makes), with subs Kevion Nolan (.529 with 1.5 makes) and Deandre Thomas (.444 with 0.4 makes) joining in when they get off the bench. Sharkey will fire them up but is hitting only .276 with 0.9 makes in conference. In conference the Bucs are at .376 from 3 with 8.6 makes. Last time the Bucs were 1-11 from 3 in the second half, while Samford on the game was .375 from the arc, 9-24.
The Bulldogs are a high scoring like ETSU (81.7 ppg to 81.3 for the Bucs in conference), just behind Wofford in the top slot at 83.4.
Handling Sharkey was a real challenge last time, with multiple players taking a turn on him, and even bigs Armus and N’Guessan taking a shot at the end. He’s a master of the drive and dish averaging an unheard of 9.7 assists in conference, and is 4th in D1 in 3PT% on the season with 7.5. When he passes out to the perimeter, they have the guys to knock it down. Despite Sharkey’s excellence, ETSU is better with assists as a team, averaging 16.7 assists to Samford’s 15.8 in SoCon play.
Hopefully it won’t come down to free throws, since Samford is tops in the SoCon with .757 and 15.2 makes in conference. None of their top 5 average under .724 from the line, though bench players Nolan and Lakic are in the .500’s. Meanwhile the Bucs are last with .636 and 9.9 makes. Last time we played Samford the Bucs were 12-21 for .571 from the line.
The Bucs have the rebounding edge with +9.1 in conference to -1.1 for Samford. We won the boards 48-21 last time, and need to make a statement there again.
Steals (7.9 to 7.4) and turnover margin (+0.56 to 0.0) are even. Sharkey is 8th in D1 in steals on the season and leads the SoCon with 3.0 in conference.
Bucs have the edge in defense where they are rated 56th in D1 by Kenpom to 197th for Samford. ETSU leads the SoCon with a .437 field goal percentage defense (to Samford’s .465) and allows .357 from 3 to a last in conference .378 for Samford.
Kenpom has us favored by a single point, 72-71. With the way that the Bulldogs have played ETSU, Furman, Wofford and UNCG (and Belmont and UT for that matter), it’s pretty much guaranteed to be a battle all the way.
All stats below are conference only:
#3 5-10 170 Jr Josh Sharkey, 36.7 minutes, 17.4 ppg on .276 with 0.9 makes from 3, 3.8 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 5.0 t.o.’s and 3.0 steals
#0 6-5 200 R-Jr Alabama Transfer Brandon Austin, 35.1 minutes, 15.8 ppg on .449 with 3.4 makes from 3, 6.0 rebounds, 1.2 steals
#4 6-3 180 Jr Myron Gordon, 31.8 minutes, 11.4 ppg on .370 with 1.1 makes from 3, 2.9 rebounds
#1 6-2 170 So Kevion Nolan, 16.7 minutes, 5.8 ppg on .529 with 1.5 makes from 3, 1.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.3 t.o.
#5 6-4 190 Fr Deandre Thomas, 11.6 minutes, 2.2 ppg on .444 from 3 with 0.4 makes, 0.8 rebounds
#32 7-0 240 R-Sr USF Transfer Ruben Guerrero, 28.7 minutes, 13.2 ppg on .575 FG%, no 3’s, 7.9 rebounds, 2.1 t.o.’s, 2.1 blocks
#21 6-8 200 Fr Robert Allen, 32.1 minutes, 12.7 ppg on .481 with 1.4 makes from 3, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 t.o.’s, 0.4 blocks
#22 6-8 235 Fr Logan Dye, 7.6 minutes, 2.8 ppg on .632 FG%, no 3’s, 0.7 rebounds, 0.9 t.o.’s
#15 6-7 220 Sr Stefan Lakic, 9.4 minutes, 1.9 ppg, 0.9 rebounds